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Eight Wolves trapped between Ely and Babbitt due to dogs being taken

by Parker Loew

After reports of pets being taken, federal officials set up a trapping zone and captured and euthanized eight wolves between Babbitt and Ely.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services Division doesn’t take decisions like these lightly and only performs the trapping of wolves under extreme circumstances.

“After the first report, they (USDA) didn’t set up a trapping zone, just deterrence plans. After the second report two weeks later, they opened a trapping control zone,” said Anthony Bermel, conservation officer with the DNR.

The trapping zone established was only around one acre in size, and lasted roughly a week, but the USDA trapped and euthanized eight wolves in the established zone.

While they would prefer to not euthanize any wildlife, Bermel explains how it isn’t that simple.

“Wolves have their territories, it is very difficult to relocate them,” said Bermel. “Once they identify humans as a food source, it makes it much more difficult.”

The DNR and USDA have received an elevated number of calls this fall from residents in the northwoods on their pets being chased and taken by wolves, and wolves that aren’t afraid of humans.

The wolf-deer dynamic is likely to blame for the increased interaction between people and wolves this year.

“I think it is primarily low deer population in the wolves’ territories,” said Bermel. “The abundance of deer in town and close to residents who often feed the deer plays a large part in drawing the wolves close to people.”

The eight wolves trapped by the USDA were described as “healthy, but fit.”

This time of year, it is early for wolves to be fit (thin), and further adds to the hypothesis that there is an abundance of wolves this year and a low deer population in their normal territories.

“That’s why they’re going after these dogs,” said Bermel. “They’re getting creative on their food sources because they’re hungry.”

The USDA doesn’t trap and euthanize wolves very often and reserves the measure for extreme circumstances such as human or pet attacks.

“If somebody calls in and just says, ‘Hey, they’re hanging around, I’m concerned about my pets or my kids or my chickens’ there’s nothing we can do,” said Bermel. “If somebody has an attack or a kill on a dog or livestock, then we and or the USDA Wildlife Services Division will investigate it.”

Before they trap, the USDA tries to deter the wolves and scare them away, but this often proves fruitless.

Another factor at play is what the landowner wishes to do with the wolves, as the attacks usually happen on private property.

Bermel said they don’t plan on doing more trapping unless more complaints arise, in which case the DNR and USDA will respond accordingly.

“It’s totally complaint-driven,” he said.

Bermel reminded residents to keep their dogs a little closer for the time being.

“If you live out in the woods or if you’re out grouse hunting or walking your dog, just be aware because there’s been several of these incidents over the last few weeks,” he said.

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